Safety

"The summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory." --Ed Viesturs

Legal Disclaimer: Mountain climbing is inherently dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. Learning the proper skills and techniques required for mountaineering can help mitigate risks but not eliminate them entirely. Individuals and organizations reading posts on this website are responsible for their own safety. Each visitor assumes all risk and accepts full and complete responsibility for any damages or injury that may result from the use or misuse of the information presented on this blog. Do not depend on this information for personal safety or for determining whether to attempt a climb, route or activity. This website is not a substitute for good judgment, experience, and skill. Ultimately, the responsibility rests with you and your partners while on Mount Baker.



Quick Tips For A Safe Trip

  • Rope up for all glacier travel.
  • Have proper equipment and know how to use it.
  • Climb with an experienced leader.
  • Have at least 2 experienced people per rope team.
  • Do not climb with less than 3 people in a party.
  • Be aware of current weather and route conditions.
  • Minimize time spent beneath overhead hazards. 
  • Know your limits and make conservative decisions. 

Hazards

Crevasses/Glacier Travel

All routes to the summit of Mt. Baker are technical climbs on glaciers. Mt. Baker is the second most heavily glaciated volcano in the Cascades after Mt. Rainier. The glaciers are sensitive to minor climatic changes and tend to be severely crevassed. 

Crevasses are serious hazards. All parties should rope up for glacier travel and be familiar with crevasse rescue techniques. Each climber should be prepared for a crevasse fall and be equipped for a crevasse rescue. 

Climbing manuals and online resources can give you a good primer on proper gear and techniques. An introductory course from an authorized guide or instructor is a great way to learn and practice the basics. 

GLACIER CAMPING TIPS: 
  • Do not camp beneath overhead hazards such as rocks, seracs, or hanging ice. 
  • Probe the camp area for hidden crevasses.
  • Probe a safe zone around camp and mark the perimeter with wands.
  • Rope up whenever going beyond the safe zone.
  • Be sure to pack out all garbage and human waste! 

Overhead Hazards

Many popular routes on Mt. Baker, including the Coleman-Deming and Easton, travel beneath overhead hazards that have the potential to fall at any time. These areas often present the highest risk on the entire route.

Climbers and skiers would be wise to give all overhead hazards a wide berth and spend as little time as possible beneath them. Move efficiently and pay close attention to your surroundings. Look up, down and around before deciding on a spot to take a break, eat lunch, or set up camp. Powder clouds, rocks and debris may travel faster and farther than expected.  

HAZARDOUS AREAS:
  
  • Colfax Icefall - The Coleman-Deming route often travels close to the hanging glaciers of Colfax Peak. Ice avalanches have been known to occur there and impact the route. The bootpack sometimes leads through a debris field. Minimize your time near this hazard. Do not slow down, take pictures, stop or camp anywhere close to this area.

  • Sherman Crater - The Easton Route often goes close to the rock formations of Sherman Crater. Large rocks and debris have been known to fall from there and impact the route. Do not slow down, take pictures, stop or camp beneath these rocks. Helmets are recommended. 


Moats

Open moats where the snowpack has melted back from rocks and creeks are common on Mt. Baker and can be very dangerous, especially in spring. Snow may be melting from below and be much thinner than it appears. 

HAZARDOUS AREAS: 

  • Heliotrope Creek drainage, directly west of Hogsback Ridge on the Coleman-Deming approach, was the site of a 2011 fatality. A hole opens seasonally at approximately 5400 feet over a snow-covered creek and waterfall. The hazard is invisible from above and has brought tragedy to several climbers through the years. Please avoid this drainage entirely and stick to the ridge.

  • In Rocky Creek drainage, a moat opens seasonally at 4900 feet over a waterfall. This feature is difficult to see from above by descending skiers and snowmobilers. It has been the site of several serious accidents. 


Solo Climbing

A solo climber on Mt. Baker has virtually no self-rescue ability in the event of a serious accident or injury. Some injured solo climbers may get lucky when another party hears their call for help and can initiate rescue. Other solo climbers have not been so fortunate. Solo travel on the glaciers is not safe.

Glissading

Glissading on glaciers and snowfields on Mt. Baker is extremely dangerous. Glissading accidents have resulted in fatalities in the past. 

Avalanches & Lahars

Mt. Baker is an active volcano and thermal venting can cause sudden avalanches and lahars (mud and debris flows). Always be aware of snow conditions and check the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center before setting off.

Snow Gullies

When winter snow pack covers trail access to climbing routes, approaches require off-trail, cross country travel. Ascend and descend on ridge crests instead of snow covered gullies for off trail travel.

Snowfields

Snowfields can linger long into the summer season on Mt. Baker slopes. Treat all snowfields as a glacier. Hidden hazards such as holes, running streams and thin snow bridges can be found in snowfields as they are on glaciers.

Ice Caves

Thermal activity in Mt. Baker's fumaroles and steam vents cause networks of ice caves to appear at various locations on the mountain. These caves are extremely dangerous not only because of their inherent instability, but also because of the poisonous gasses that fill them. Although they may appear inviting they are not to be entered under any circumstances.

Stream Crossings

Bridges on approach trails can be destroyed with the whim of a fall flood or a winter avalanche. Crossing glacier fed or heavily rain swollen creeks can be tough for even the most experienced mountaineer. Swiftly moving milky water creates challenging conditions and rocks can be very slippery. It becomes difficult to see the bottom of the creek bed to know where to step and to judge the water depth. Afternoon glacier melt causes higher water which is also more difficult to cross. Heavy rain can cause higher water any time of the day or night.

Weather

Mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable and Mt. Baker is no exception. Conditions can change drastically and suddenly without warning. Clear climbing conditions can quickly become very dangerous and climbers should always be prepared for every type of weather condition.

Search & Rescue

Cell phone coverage on Mt. Baker is sporadic and climbers should not solely rely on cell phones to initiate Search & Rescue (SAR).

Whatcom County Sheriff's Department conducts all SAR operations on Mt. Baker. In case of an emergency, call 911 and alert the operator of the situation. Due to the complexity of SAR missions, a rescue could take several hours before rescue personnel arrive on the scene to assist.

Provide clear and concise information including:
  1. Name of reporting party
  2. Location (GPS Coordinates) and elevation of incident
  3. Extent of injury or medical condition
  4. Contact information to get back to you